Whether the end of your relationship involved a dramatic blowout or was more of a “conscious uncoupling,” there’s no denying that breaking up is hard. There are plenty of obvious ways to avoid rubbing salt in your wounded heart, e.g. don’t drunk-dial your ex, stop sleeping in their t-shirt, and back away from their Instagram feed. However, there is also a slew of more subtle slip-ups that could be sabotaging your healing process.
Here are a few mistakes you could be making when you’re trying to get over a breakup.
You’re constantly trying to figure out what went wrong.
Would you still be together if they hadn’t taken that job two hours away? Or if you spent less time on your phone during date nights? If only you had done x, y, and z, maybe things would have turned out differently.
Endlessly dissecting a failed relationship is just feeding yourself a steady diet of guilt and self-pity. The reality is that it takes two to make a relationship, and it takes two to break one.
“Do the grieving you need to do,” psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina told Bustle. “Figure out how you helped create the problems (or stayed around for them) and decide to change what didn’t work before.”
Playing C.S.I. with the corpse of your relationship is only going to keep you looking over your shoulder at the past instead of building a better future.
You keep their number, “just in case.”
What exactly is the emergency scenario that would require you to call your ex? Short of accidentally leaving your passport in their car or them being a perfect kidney donor match, there aren’t many situations in which “just in case” means anything but “I’m still holding out hope things might work out.”
There’s a lot of power in symbolic acts, and deleting your ex’s number can feel like exorcising a ghost. Cut those digital ties and free up space in your contacts for someone new.
You try to “win” the break up in unhealthy ways.
Maybe the end of your relationship inspired you to hit the gym, revamp your apartment, and get that chinchilla you’ve always wanted. If breaking up was the push you needed to chase your ideal self, that’s awesome.
However, if you start thinking that your new purpose in life is to post photos with the sole purpose of proving to your ex that you’re better off without them, that’s not so great.
“The only real winners are the people who don’t care how they look on social media, to their ex or to anyone,” James Hablin wrote in a 2015 piece for the Atlantic about the trend of trying to “win” breakups.
Pushing yourself to do things before you’re ready or just to show your ex — or yourself — that you’re definitely, totally, completely fine means you’re not living your life for you, but for them. Don’t let your old relationship dictate the new you.
You ask mutual friends about them.
The truth is that mining your mutual friends for intel about your ex won’t leave you satisfied, but it will have you spending mental energy and time dwelling in a place that you no longer live, so to speak.
“The single biggest mistake I see people make after a breakup is that they focus on what’s next for their ex rather than what’s possible for themselves,” relationship expert and author Lisa Steadman stated in an interview with Redbook.
Instead of wondering where your ex is living or who they’re dating, bring that spotlight back to where it should be shining: your own life.
You try to be friends right away.
Though it may sound like the civilized thing to do on paper, trying to start a friendship with your ex right on the heels of a breakup can majorly backfire.
According to a study by the University of Kansas, the primary motive behind remaining friends after a breakup is associated with how long that friendship will last and whether it will be a positive experience.
Researchers identified four main reasons exes try to stay friends: security (you feel emotionally lost without the other person), practicality (you have kids together or work in the same office), civility (you just want to be polite), and lingering romantic attachment.
The study found that people who stayed friends for the sake of civility or practical reasons had the best chance of friendships that lasted. Those who kept in touch due to emotional insecurity or romantic attachment ended up with friendships that involved more negative feelings.
Depending on your motivation, not taking the space you need to heal from the trauma of a breakup may keep you in emotional limbo or lead to further heartbreak.
You don’t break up with their social media.
No one is saying you have scrub every trace of your ex from your digital life, but scrolling through their vacation pics and late-night musings isn’t going to help you move on.
“It’s too hard to get over something if you have access to them,” Bela Gandhi, founder of Chicago-based Smart Dating Academy, told Redbook. “You can always add them back later.”
Take the time to unfollow, untag, and mute your ex on any social media you regularly check. If you don’t think you have enough willpower to not re-follow or peek at their feed, go ahead and unfriend or block them.
You get moody and cryptic on your social media.
There’s nothing that smacks more of high school drama than a cryptic yet totally pointed social media update. It’s totally cool to reach out to your IRL network for support and commiseration, but broadcasting your turmoil to the internet and baiting your ex with ambiguous posts isn’t a good look.
People see right through it, and your future self and potential new connections will do nothing but cringe.
You reach out to your ex for closure.
Maybe you have unanswered questions about where it all went wrong, or you’re low-key curious about what your ex is doing nowadays. Regardless of your reasoning, getting in touch with your ex after the breakup is almost never a good idea.
“It’s like an addiction like your brain is withdrawing from a drug, and you can feel very obsessive at this time,” relationship therapist Rachel Sussman told Women’s Health.
Chances are your need for closure is actually your brain crying out for a hit of your previous emotional connection.
In seeking out your ex, you might be looking for proof that they’re suffering just as much as you. Unfortunately, you’re not guaranteed to find it. If they’ve bounced back from the split quicker than you have, your quest for closure could leave you feeling more alone than before.
You trash-talk your ex to your friends.
Depending on the circumstances of the breakup, some name-calling can be cathartic. However, no one has a crystal ball. You could end up reconnecting with your ex-partner as friends down the line or even getting back together.
If you’ve already aired all their dirty laundry to those closest to you, ushering your ex back into your life could lead to potential embarrassment on all sides.
Do you really think your loved ones will leap at the chance to hang out with the guy who once cheated on you with his yoga instructor? Or the girl who burned your entire baseball card collection on her way out the door? Probably not.
And pro tip: no one has a longer memory than your mom.
You start dating again too soon.
Most breakups involve some level of rejection, which can make getting back into the dating scene or feverishly swiping through potential matches seem appealing.
Nobody likes feeling unwanted, but looking for romantic validation and connection too soon after your split can distract you from the business of actually getting over your previous relationship.
“Most people need a month or two to process the breakup, to mourn, and to integrate lessons before jumping back in if they were in a fairly serious relationship,” psychologist Paulette Kouffman Sherman told Glamour. If you were together for more than a year, Kouffman recommends a date-free period of three to four months.
Give yourself time to settle into your newly single status, process your feelings, and get back in touch with your solo identity.
You assume that there’s something about you that needs fixing.
A breakup means that something was wrong with the relationship, not necessarily with one partner in particular. Peanut butter and banana are a perfect pairing, but peanut butter and steak sauce? Not so much. That doesn’t mean there’s anything intrinsically wrong with steak sauce. Sometimes two perfectly good people just don’t fit together, and that’s totally fine.
“While it’s true that we do have areas where we need to grow and become better, it is never completely our fault,” relationship coach and teacher Jennifer Twardowski wrote in a piece forHuffPost. “After all, it takes two to tango. The other person’s imperfections certainly didn’t make things any easier.”
The end of a relationship isn’t always a personal failing. No person and no relationship is perfect. The best anyone can do is learn from difficult experiences and move on.